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Child Marriage Adversely Affects the Lives of Girls

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Child marriage is defined as marriage before the age of 18, and it can be very harmful if not devastating to girls and their families. It happens mainly in developing countries. There are more than 60 million child brides worldwide, half of whom are girls who are married off before they turned 18.

The traditional practice of child marriage occurs mainly in poor, rural communities and it only serves to increase the cycle of poverty. The child brides are taken out of school, thereby depriving them of an education and possibly a job thereafter. The children, for that is what these brides are, suffer the terrible adverse affects associated with having sex forced on them by their husbands, who are often much older than they are. They also suffer the health risks that come with early childbearing, which can ultimately lead to high rates of maternal and infant mortality, as well as from sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. They are also more likely to be victims of sexual abuse, domestic violence and social isolation.

According to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW,) girls and their parents want to delay these marriages but are short on options. It seems to me that the girls would not only want to delay these marriages but would be dead set against them in the first place. Governments and communities are trying to discourage these marriages by raising awareness of the dire consequences for girls, by running programs that give girls alternatives to early marriages, and by demanding stricter enforcement of existing laws that do condemn child marriage. The ICRW said, “With the right mix of effective programs, policies and political will, millions of girls will have the opportunity to fulfill their potential.”

On a separate, but analogous note, on Dec. 16, 2010, despite unanimous approval by the U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives blocked the “International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act” in a 241-166 vote. “We came so far--and so close,” said Sarah Degnan Kamou, president of the ICRW.

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